An example of musical borrowing by G. F. Handel

George F. Handel's (1685-1759) reliance on the works of other composers is the subject of an extensive literature. Some of this literature has been surveyed in George J. Buelow, "The Case for Handel's Borrowings: The Judgement of Three Centuries", in Stanley Sadie and Anthony Hicks, Handel Tercentenary Collection, Macmillan Press, Houndmills, 1987, pp. 61-82.

This page provides one example of melodic borrowing by G.F. Handel. The Violin I part of the third movement of the overture to Theodora copies fairly closely the uppermost line of music in a harpsichord work, called "Trio", by Gottlieb Muffat (1690-1770), and published in his Componimenti Musicali per il Cembalo.

The date of publication of the Componimenti is not known with certainty from Muffat's book itself.   That Handel copied from Muffat is strongly suggested by Handel's surviving notebooks, which contain copies of passages from the Componimenti that correspond to nothing in Handel's publicly-known work.  It is much more likely that Handel copied from the Componimenti, a publicly available work, than that Muffat copied them from Handel's private notebooks.  (It is theoretically possible that Muffat copied from some then publicly-known work of Handel that is now so obscure that scholars cannot identify it.  For now I ignore this possibility.)  This evidence is discussed in Sedley Taylor, The Indebtedness of Handel to Works by other Composers: A Presentation of Evidence, Cambridge University Press, 1906, pages 1-5.

Muffat's Componimenti was published in the Handel Supplement, volume 5, Edited by Friedrich Chrysander, Handel Society, Leipzig, 1894.

For a general introduction to the literature of musical borrowing, see J. Peter Burkholder, "The Uses of Existing Music: Musical Borrowing as a Field", Notes, Volume 50, Number 3, March 1994, pp. 851-870.

An on-line bibliography of musical borrowing has been posted at Indiana University.


"Trio", measures 1-34, uppermost line of music, from Gottlieb Muffat, Componimenti Musicali per il Cembalo.
Muffat measures 1-6

G. F. Handel, Overture to Theodora (first performed 1750), 3rd Movement, "Trio", Violin I part.
Handel measures 1-6


Muffat measures 7-12

Handel Measures 7-10


Muffat measures 13-18

Handel measures 11-16


Muffat measures 19-24

Handel measures 17-20


Muffat measures 25-30

Handel measures 21-26


Muffat measures 31-34

Handel measures 27-28                                                   Handel measures 29-30


This page posted by Tim Phillips